University of Technology Sydney

65865 Honours (Forensic Science) 2

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science: Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Credit points: 18 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Description

This subject consists of an individual research project on a key area of interest in forensic science conducted under the supervision of a member of UTS academic staff. Some projects are conducted externally in conjunction with an external co-supervisor. This subject is designed to enhance the skills and knowledge necessary for research and continued professional development in forensic science. With the guidance of their supervisor, students learn how to plan a project, formulate aims and hypotheses, design and implement experiments, and analyse and interpret the generated data. As part of their professional development in this subject, students learn to work with available time and resources, use appropriate and ethical research methods, critically assess scientific literature, and report their research to scientific peers. This subject is the continuation of 65864 Honours (Forensic Science) 1 and required for successful completion of the Honours project.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Work independently on a research project to investigate a forensic science problem or question in their chosen discipline area
2. Create a research plan and design suitable experiments to test a scientific hypothesis
3. Critically review the literature in their chosen discipline area and identify gaps in knowledge
4. Generate new disciplinary knowledge or professional forensic science processes
5. Communicate research in oral and written formats to peer and expert audiences
6. Work effectively and collaboratively as part of a research group

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

Students will apply the disciplinary knowledge and practical skills they have developed throughout their undergraduate studies to an unfamiliar research question in order to develop new knowledge or forensic science processes, which will help reinforce their existing knowledge in their chosen discipline area. To successfully complete their Honours research project, students will continually build a much deeper understanding of their discipline or topic throughout the year by critiquing and/or using existing scientific literature to complete aspects of their project such as data analysis, experiments, or interpretation of results.

An enquiry-oriented approach

Students will learn how to structure and investigate a research project from the design stage to the final report (thesis) and seminar by using scientific method. At the commencement of their project they will formulate scientific hypotheses and learn how to design appropriate experiments to test and evaluate these hypotheses with input from their supervisors. Students will also refine their problem-solving skills by applying existing knowledge or literature to solve unknown or unfamiliar problems.

Professional skills and their appropriate application

Students will refine their professional skills through independent research, participating in research group meetings, working with other researchers and students in the laboratory, and managing the day-to-day aspects of their project. Students will have an opportunity to refine key professional attributes such as time management, researching scientific literature, problem solving and personal organisation required for a successful career. As part of the initial stages of their projects, students will learn other professional skills such as laboratory risk assessment and management, conducting ethical research and maintaining thorough laboratory notes. In the second half of the project (65865), students will produce a technical scientific thesis and prepare scientific presentations.

An ability to be a lifelong learner

Honours is an independent research year that provides the right environment and support for students to build on the independent learning skills they began developing in undergraduate studies. During their Honours year, students will be mentored to become competent scientists who have the ability to research new practices or literature, assess the quality and validity of new methods, and adapt to or learn new techniques. Students will be trained on and gain expertise with state-of-the-art instruments, software and processes used in forensic science industry and research, setting them up to apply their technical skills to new workplace or research scenarios. Students will also develop their ability to learn collaboratively with other scientists - necessary for continued career development in modern science - through research group meetings, discussions of common problems in the laboratory, and sharing laboratory skills.

Engagement with the needs of society

Honours research projects are designed to address an unresolved question, limitation or need in forensic science practice designed to improve the detection, interpretation or use of forensic traces. Each of these aspects is crucial for improving the intersection with the security, policing or legal systems, and, more broadly, society's need for effective forensic science to ensure community safety. As students investigate their project, they will build an awareness of the current limitations and issues within their chosen discipline, and aid in the development of a solution to these limitations, whether it is the development of a new method or an industry-based validation or interpretation framework project.

Communication skills

The communication of a student's project findings are an essential part of their Honours year. Students will get an opportunity to continue developing their written scientific communication skills by writing a technical scientific thesis and critical literature review. Both written works require students to critically analyse and distill a variety of data and sources in a coherent body of work. Depending on their project, some students may also have the opportunity to collaborate on the drafting of a journal article. As part of their final assessment, students will also refine their oral communication skills via their final seminar. Those participating in the mid-year WSU-UTS Research Student Symposium will have the opportunity to practice their presentation skills in a conference-style atmosphere.

Initiative and innovative ability

In order to generate new discipline knowledge or industry practice, Honours students will be mentored by their supervisors and senior research students to develop their ability to produce innovative methods or practices to address current limitations in forensic science. As students become more independent in their project, they will learn to independently seek and test solutions to unfamiliar problems they encounter during their project, as well as their project hypotheses, using literature or practical research.

Teaching and learning strategies

Guided learning
Teaching and learning in this subject is on an individual level and linked to the student's project. Students will master crucial laboratory skills in formal training sessions with professional research technical officers and/or industry supervisors. With assistance from their supervisors, students will learn other practices required in a research environment, such as preparing risk management plans, project plans, designing experiments, and research ethics. Supervisors will provide guidance and personalised feedback on assessments to help students learn academic writing, literature critique and presentation skills. Students may also request one-on-one meetings with their supervisors to discuss specific problems or progress. More detailed information on student feedback modes is presented in the Assessment Feedback section. As the student develops subject matter expertise, they are expected to develop more independence in their learning and responsibility for their project.

Independent learning

As they develop into independent researchers, students will be responsible for further developing their professional attributes and knowledge. Students will be responsible for balancing their coursework and research time, providing draft work for critique in a timely manner, and providing regular updates to their supervisors. Students will also learn to use online resources such as scientific literature, webinars or tutorials to find solutions to project problems, develop a deeper understanding of their research topic and results, or select appropriate data analysis methods. Online support materials are provided on UTSOnline and are designed to complement the supervisors' guidance on literature review and presentation writing and general research practices.

Research group meetings and collaborative learning

All Honours students are an active part of their research group and are expected to show 'good citizenship' within their respective groups. Each research group has a different meeting calendar (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and students should contact their supervisors for the schedule. Research group meetings are your main channel for receiving regular feedback and guidance from your supervisors and other research students. This includes attending and giving updates at group meetings and participating in other activities such as journal clubs or practice seminars, which will help you learn and refine critical review, scientific and presentation skills. Students will have the opportunity to learn from other students in their research group and assist others by providing or receiving project suggestions, assistance or feedback from each other. Students are encouraged to assist each other with day-to-day problems in the laboratory and to learn from senior research students in the laboratory.

Content (topics)

The content of each research project will be determined by the supervisory panel in consultation with the student. The initial project background and aims are published in the Honours project proposal booklet every September.

Students are expected to work with their supervisors to prepare a project plan in the initial weeks of semester. Laboratory inductions and the risk management plan should be completed during the orientation period wherever possible as these processes are essential for gaining security access.

Assessment

Assessment task 1: Oral project plan

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

2. An inquiry-oriented approach

5. Engagement with the needs of society

6. Communication skills

7. Initiative and innovative ability

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

2, 3 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

2.0, 5.0, 6.0 and 7.0

Type: Presentation
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 5%
Length:

10 minutes

Criteria:

A detailed marking scheme is available on UTSOnline.

You will be assessed on your ability to:

  • Briefly explain the context and significance of your project using existing literature
  • Clearly and concisely present your research question, aims, and hypotheses
  • Design a suitable project plan and identify potential issues (e.g. safety, ethics)
  • Prepare understandable and appropriate visual content that supports your speech
  • Verbally communicate to a scientific audience

Assessment task 2: Critical literature review

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

1. Discipline knowledge and its appropriate application

2. An inquiry-oriented approach

4. The ability to be a lifelong learner

6. Communication skills

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

3 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.0, 2.0 and 6.0

Type: Literature review
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 15%
Length:

5000-7000 words

Criteria:

The literature review feedback and marking proforma is available on UTSOnline.

You will be reviewed and assessed on your ability to:

  • Discuss the issues relevant to your area of research by drawing upon multiple sources.
  • Produce a focused and concise written review on your research topic.
  • Perform an honest and fair critique of the literature and explain how your project may address gaps or limitations in published research.

Assessment task 3: Mid-project progress review

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

2. An inquiry-oriented approach

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

4. The ability to be a lifelong learner

7. Initiative and innovative ability

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 4 and 6

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 7.0

Type: Reflection
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: Mandatory task that does not contribute to subject mark
Criteria:

This researcher development appraisal is completed with your supervisory panel mid-way through your project. A review proforma is available on UTSOnline. You will be reviewed on your ability to:

  • Work confidently in the laboratory with and without supervision
  • Learn collaboratively from other research students
  • Solve day-to-day problems in the laboratory by researching and testing ideas
  • Articulate, apply and synthesise disciplinary knowledge at a deeper level than a Bachelor graduate

Assessment task 4: Final seminar

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

6. Communication skills

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.0, 3.0 and 6.0

Type: Presentation
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 20%
Length:

20 minutes. Presentations should be approximately 15-17 minutes in length to allow time for questions.

Criteria:

A detailed marking scheme is available on UTSOnline.

You will be assessed on your ability to:

  • Clearly and concisely present your project design, methods, findings, and relevant literature
  • Prepare understandable and appropriate visual content that supports your speech
  • Verbally communicate your research to a scientific audience
  • Accurately and knowledgeably answer questions

Assessment task 5: Project thesis

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

2. An inquiry-oriented approach

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

5. Engagement with the needs of society

6. Communication skills

7. Initiative and innovative ability

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.0, 2.0, 5.0, 6.0 and 7.0

Type: Thesis
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%
Length:

Approx. 70-100 pages

Criteria:

Detailed marking criteria are available on UTSOnline.

You will be assessed on your ability to:

  • Critically evaluate the relevant literature
  • Form hypotheses from the project aims and objectives
  • Describe your experimental design and present methods in a clear, discipline-appropriate format
  • Clearly present and explain your experimental results
  • Apply appropriate data analysis or treatment methods
  • Critically evaluate and interpret results in the context of your hypotheses
  • Form appropriate scientific conclusions
  • Produce a well-written and logically structured thesis